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Hey guys! Remember the ‘Battle of the Buttercreams’ series I posted a year ago? You know, the series in which I explain how to make all six different kinds of buttercream, from American to Swiss? It’s one of the most popular series on the blog! But hey, for those of you who missed the series, let me tell you a little about it… For all I know you might be new here…
Back in 2013 (!) I decided to throw a little buttercream tasting party, where guests (my high school teachers, actually) could taste all the different buttercreams I knew of and vote for their favorite. For the sake of science of course… Not because I like to stuff my face with buttercream or anything… Cough cough… The buttercream party/battle was super fun, but picking a winner turned out to be a tricky business. Apparently, you can argue about tastes!
Anyway, because I’ve learned a lot more about buttercream since 2013, and because I’ve since updated my buttercream recipes, I thought I’d revisit the series. Again, for the sake of science of course… Most certainly not because I looooooove buttercream!
So let’s just get on with it! This is the Battle of the Buttercreams 2.0!
Instead of starting this shiny new series with a recipe, I thought that explaining a little more about the different preparation methods would be helpful.
Two different preparation methods
The six kinds of buttercream I know of can be roughly divided into two categories, according to their preparation method:
- Buttercreams that are made by adding a sweet base (mostly some sort of pudding, but it can also be just sugar) to beaten butter. I like to call this method the ‘beaten-butter method’. And yes, coming up with super creative terms is definitely one of my many talents…
- Buttercreams that are made by adding cubes of softened butter to a sweet base (an egg foam). I call this one the ‘cubed-butter method’. I’m a genius…
The beaten-butter method is the easiest of the two, so that’s what I’ll be discussing today.
Beaten butter method
Let me first tell you a little secret: all the buttercreams made using the beaten-butter method can also be made with the cubed-butter method. However, if you use the beaten-butter method, the buttercream not only comes together more willingly, it’s also less likely to separate!
The method itself is super duper easy: just three simple steps!
Oh, by the way, to explain to you how this method works, I’ve included photos in which I’m making flour buttercream. It’s a gorgeously smooth, egg-free buttercream made with a simple pudding base. To make American buttercream, you’d simply replace the pudding with a ton of powdered sugar and a splash of cream, and for the German buttercream you’d replace the pudding with a basic custard made with egg yolks and milk.
I’ll post the different recipes later, so let’s focus on the actual method for now…
First thing you’ll need: butter. Just to point out the obvious… I always use unsalted butter because I like to control how much salt goes into my buttercream, but you can also use salted butter. Whatever you use, make sure the butter is softened at room temperature. You want it to be soft, but not greasy! I usually take the butter out about 30-60 minutes before I want to use it, cut it into little cubes, arrange them on a plate like soldiers standing guard (they warm up faster that way!) and let my buttery soldiers come to temperature…
Once the butter is nice and soft, you beat it until it’s smooth and fluffy. As you beat air into it, it will lighten in color. Obviously, it’s best to use a mixer for this. Fit it with a whisk or paddle attachment, it doesn’t really matter… I don’t have a paddle attachment – because I’m still waiting for a KitchenAid endorsement deal – so I used my trusty old hand-held mixer for this.
And again, make sure the butter is not greasy! When I say ‘room temperature,’ I mean somewhere between 18-20°C or 65-68°F. Don’t even think about trying to warm the butter in the microwave or oven. You don’t want greasy or even melted butter! Otherwise you’ll run into all sorts of issues; it’s pretty hard to whip up melted butter…
I don’t care if you have the patience of a three-year-old. So do we all…
Once the butter is nice and fluffy, you can start adding the base. For a flour buttercream, this means a pudding made with milk, sugar, and a little flour. The base kind of looks like glue, but the resulting buttercream will be delicious, I promise…
By adding the base one spoonful at a time and mixing well after each addition, you give the butter a chance to absorb the added moisture from the pudding. As you may know, fat and water don’t mix very well – just try to mix a few drops of oil into a cup of water. When you’re making buttercream, you’re essentially doing the same thing: you’re trying to make a water-in-fat emulsion. Add all the pudding at once, and the buttercream may separate. Add the pudding slowly, and the buttercream comes together beautifully!
By the way, for a German buttercream you would add spoonfuls of custard to the beaten butter at this point. For an American buttercream you would simply mix in powdered sugar and cream…
Mix in a little vanilla extract or other flavoring and you’re done. You’ve made deliciously smooth buttercream using the beaten-butter method!
Next post in this series: American buttercream. The fluffiest, dreamiest, creamiest American buttercream ever… Like ever. I’m telling you, my new recipe for American buttercream is sooo much better than my 2013 recipe!
- unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- a base, this can be either prepared pudding, custard or even just powdered sugar
- flavorings, optional
- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle, or in a mixing bowl if using a handheld mixer, beat the butter until smooth and fluffy and lightened in color, about 2 minutes.
- Add the base one tablespoon at a time, mixing well after each addition.
- Add flavorings and beat until buttercream looks thick, smooth, and creamy, about 3 minutes.